A black and white photo of a 50s housewife wearing a black evening dress preparing the dinner table

Hostess With the Most-est! How to Throw Your Own 50s Style Dinner Party

A 1950s dinner party was a social event that combined the elements of good food, music, and conversation, characterized by a distinct style and atmosphere. Attending a 1950s dinner party was a unique experience that reflected the cultural norms and tastes of the era. Here's what it was typically like:

Invitations: Guests received formal invitations in advance, often sent via mail. These invitations were usually printed on elegant cards and included the date, time, and dress code for the event. RSVPs were expected to help the host or hostess plan accordingly.

Dress Code: Attire for a 1950s dinner party was typically formal or semi-formal. Men wore suits or tuxedos, while women donned elegant dresses, gloves, and pearls. It was common for guests to make an effort to dress their best, reflecting the post-war era's emphasis on style and sophistication.

Cocktails and Hors d'oeuvres: The evening typically began with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Classic cocktails like Martinis, Manhattans, and Old Fashioneds were popular choices. Guests socialized in the living room, enjoying drinks and appetizers before moving to the dining area.

Dining: The dining area was set with fine China, crystal glassware, and silverware. The table might be adorned with floral centrepieces and candles. Meals at 1950s dinner parties were often multi-course affairs, featuring dishes like prime rib, lobster, and other classic fare. Family-style serving was common.

Entertainment: Music was a significant part of a 1950s dinner party. Many hosts and hostesses had a record player or a Hi-Fi system that played popular music of the time. Often, guests would enjoy a dance after dinner, with styles like the waltz, foxtrot, and cha-cha being popular choices.

Conversation: Conversation played a central role in the evening. Guests engaged in lively discussions, often covering topics such as current events, travel, and entertainment. Good manners and polite conversation were highly valued.

Games and Activities: Some 1950s dinner parties featured games and activities for guests to enjoy. Popular choices included bridge, charades, and parlour games that added an element of fun and interaction.

Farewell: At the end of the evening, hosts and hostesses typically offered guests coffee and dessert before saying their goodbyes. It was customary for guests to express their gratitude to the hosts and send thank-you notes in the days following the party.

The 1950s dinner party was a sophisticated and elegant affair that emphasized style, etiquette, and social interaction. It represented an era when people gathered to enjoy each other's company and celebrate life's pleasures with a touch of glamour and nostalgia.

The Biggest DONT'S of a 50s dinner party:

Conversation was to be kept polite, light and merry

In the 1950s, dinner parties were generally formal and followed certain etiquette guidelines. To maintain a polite and pleasant atmosphere, certain topics were typically considered rude or inappropriate for discussion at a 1950s dinner party. Here are some of the subjects that would have been best avoided:

  1. Personal Finances: It was considered impolite to discuss one's financial situation or income, as it could lead to discomfort or comparisons among guests.

  2. Politics: Political discussions were often avoided to prevent heated debates and potential conflicts. The 1950s was a period of heightened political tensions, and many preferred to keep these topics out of social gatherings.

  3. Religion: Conversations about religion were typically avoided to respect the diversity of beliefs among guests and maintain a harmonious atmosphere.

  4. Personal Health Issues: Discussions about personal health problems, ailments, or medical conditions were seen as inappropriate and potentially discomforting for others.

  5. Gossip and Scandals: Spreading or discussing rumours, gossip, or scandals related to individuals, especially in a negative or judgmental manner, was considered bad form.

  6. Controversial Social Issues: Topics related to sensitive social issues like race, gender, and discrimination were generally avoided to prevent uncomfortable or divisive conversations.

  7. Personal Critiques: Offering unsolicited personal critiques or criticisms about the appearance, clothing, or behaviour of other guests was discouraged.

  8. Excessive Alcohol Consumption: While alcohol was often served, it was considered inappropriate to discuss or draw attention to excessive drinking or related behaviours.

  9. Money Borrowing or Lending: Discussions related to borrowing money, debts, or financial assistance were considered private matters and not suitable for dinner party conversations.

  10. Inappropriate Jokes or Language: Crude or offensive humour, as well as the use of profanity or inappropriate language, was discouraged to maintain a refined and respectful atmosphere.

Ensure You Dress Appropriately 

In the 1950s, dinner parties were generally formal and followed certain etiquette guidelines. To maintain a polite and pleasant atmosphere, certain topics were typically considered rude or inappropriate for discussion at a 1950s dinner party. 

Women's Attire:

  1. Dresses: Women's dresses in the 1950s often featured a feminine silhouette with nipped waists and full skirts. Styles included A-line dresses, fit-and-flare dresses, and wiggle dresses. Fabrics like silk, satin, lace, and taffeta were popular, and dresses were usually knee-length or longer.

  2. Gloves: Elbow-length gloves were often worn, adding an extra touch of elegance to the outfit. Gloves were typically made of satin or lace and matched the dress or accessories.

  3. Accessories: Women adorned themselves with accessories like pearls, rhinestone jewelry, and brooches. Hats were also common, such as pillbox hats or fascinators, often secured with a hatpin.

  4. Shoes: Closed-toe pumps with medium heels were the standard footwear for a 1950s dinner party. Shoes were typically made of leather or satin, and they often matched the dress.

  5. Handbags: Clutch bags or small evening bags were carried, typically in matching or complementary colors to the dress.

  6. Hosiery: Women wore stockings made of silk or nylon, often held up by garter belts or girdles.

Men's Attire:

  1. Suits: Men's suits were a staple for formal occasions. The classic suit consisted of a two-piece or three-piece suit with a tailored jacket and matching trousers. The suits were typically single-breasted and came in solid colors or subtle patterns like pinstripes or herringbone.

  2. Shirts: Dress shirts were worn with suits, often in white or pastel colors. The shirt would have a pointed or spread collar, and cufflinks were a common accessory.

  3. Ties: Neckties were an essential part of a man's ensemble. Ties in various colors and patterns were popular, and they were often wider and featured bold designs compared to later decades.

  4. Shoes: Men wore leather oxford shoes, typically black or brown, depending on the color of their suit.

  5. Accessories: Men added sophistication to their look with pocket squares, tie bars, and cufflinks. A well-tailored overcoat or trench coat might be worn for warmth and style.

  6. Hats: While less common than in previous decades, some men still wore hats such as fedoras or trilbies.

Both men and women paid close attention to their appearance and adhered to traditional and formal styles when attending a 1950s dinner party. The emphasis was on presenting a polished and elegant image while respecting the social norms and etiquette of the era.

Don't Arrive Empty-Handed: It was customary to bring a host or hostess gift, such as flowers or a bottle of wine, to express gratitude for their hospitality.

Don't Arrive Unannounced: Show respect for the hosts by not bringing uninvited guests unless you have been granted permission.

Don't Interrupt Conversations: Wait for appropriate pauses in conversations before joining or starting a new discussion. Interrupting was considered impolite.

Don't Forget to Thank Everyone For Coming: The hosts would have taken their role to guide the guests through the party from beginning to end very seriously, right up to the Goodbyes and it was important to show your gratitude for everyone coming. 

Don't Over Stay Your Welcome! Guests would typically have been cautious to not stay too long or leave too abruptly after the meal. A couple of hours after dinner would have been 

Don't Forget to Send a Thank You Note To The Host After the Party! 

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